Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I think I may have told you my nephew is in the Army.
When he was first deployed I made him a pair of wool socks and a helmet liner.
This is the link, to the pattern which is a charity project. I have made a few, to participate in the charity, before I knew my nephew was going. The wool socks were the basic ones I've always made, so don't know if there is a pattern for them. I think I've posted my disorganized notes about them here sometime ago....
Anyway, when he was home on leave last May, he said that he'd shrunk the socks, somehow didn't realize what 100% wool meant, and his helmet liner was MIA. (He loaned it to a friend when he wasn't on duty and his friend was injured and taken to hospital.) He's since got it back.
So the first thing Auntie(Me) does is pick up the yarn to replace the helmet liner, fairly easy for me to find, and start shopping for better sock choices.
Right about that time, Cascade Yarns released a Superwash Sock yarn. I'd read about it but it wasn't what I wanted. Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Worsted is the yarn requested by the Military for the helmet liner, you'll see that in the pattern. I made the first one with that because I didn't want him to have it confiscated if it wasn't up to snuff. The first pair of socks I made were intended to be worn in layers and in boots so I didn't think it would matter.
It's seems difficult to find sock yarns that are not an ombre or varigated, or something a MAN would want to wear. Although these yarns are beautiful and really fun to knit up, I can't imagine a soldier not being teased without mercy for donning self-striping socks. Really, without making this a political statement, I would prefer for all military personnel to be using/wearing American made products. Somehow it just seems wrong not to. So if I make something to send for personal use, I would have preferred it be American made.
Not too many weeks later, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport showed up at the same yarn store as I had purchased what I needed for the helmet liner. So, I picked up a skein of the black. (MSRP is $7 for 100gms and 220 yds or 200 meters.) It's content is 100% merino wool from Peru, very soft to work with, but not very tightly wound. The fabric it creates is sprungy (not sure if that's a word, but that's the best I can describe it). I tried toe-up but it was painful. Top down seemed easier. I ended up with one in each direction for the pair, nobody else could tell the difference.
(In fact, this was the socks I was working on at both the Seattle Mariner's Stitch & Pitch and while walking around at Sock Summit II.)
I mentioned at that same shop that I knew Brown Sheep Company marketed their yarns as 'American Made'. When they also produced a washable sock yarn, I hoped to try it also. I was extremely happy to see it when it appeared in the same shop! I immediately pick up two skeins (comes in 50gms, I paid $6.20 had a discount but I've seen it at a few websites for closer to $5) to make a second pair without question. This was exactly what I had wanted. I also like the idea that he would have two pairs. About this time I learned he'd gotten the first helmet liner back, so he would have two of those also.
Brown Sheep's sock yarn is called WildFoote Luxury Sock Yarn, is 75% Washable wool and Nylon. The wool type is not specified, but I have to assume it's sheep, as the company's name. Seems to have great stitch definition and stretch, but it's not soft on the hands. It creates a crunchy fabric, but when I washed it and rinsed with hair conditioner (as a friend recommends, makes sense as the wool fiber is a hair also) both socks are equally soft. In fact after washing and laying flat to dry, or blocking, both pairs of socks seem soft and the stitches are smooth.
I think if it's up to me and the yarn is available to me (as I mentioned in my last post, I've moved) Cascade Yarns makes a great product, but I would prefer my projects be American made fibers as they are knitted by one. Just seems to be more logical that way.
(The last picture is after blocking. The one at the top is before blocking, the black sock at the far right is toe up and the other is top down, the same as the pair in grey.)
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Last night, you put your arm around my shoulder and asked me what to do about your love life.
It felt like more than a desire to have someone for the night, so that had a profound effect on me, like you are looking for the permanent one. I think, too, you may have thought I've heard everything being said about you and know all your business. I have taken a vow against gossip and maliciousness, so, unless you told me something or I've seen something, I don't know anything about what you're going through.
I wish it was a simple answer, how to find THE ONE. I've laid awake all night wondering what I could have said that would have been beneficial. At the moment, I can't remember what I did say. It seemed funny to me that you would ask ME of all people, and I'm pretty sure my answer is not the same as you would have with your friends in the locker room. But, at the same time, it's not the 'chick flick' answer either. At least I don't think so. I don't believe in fairy tales, so this isn't going to be the fake, romance answer.
In your chosen profession, there is a lot that is fake. Personally, I'm not a fan of fake. From the little I know about you, you're not either. If you were, you would be drinking all the time, until fake looks good. You don't seem to want your senses dulled, though, you seem to want to know things for what they are.
That will probably do you the most good, honestly. Recognizing things for what they really are will be the tool that protects you most. You have to realize the sweet thing with the bedroom eyes may not be the companion for life. Of course, if she's attempting to attract you with the fake nails, hair, boob-job, whatever, she may not love herself as she really is for you to begin to appreciate who she really is either. Whoever she is, you'll know her because you have all the right tools to recognize her.
The first tool that you have that I know of is your music. The right companion is the one that hopes for you to do the thing you love even more than you do. When you play and you are enjoying yourself, you get this really relaxed look on your face that says you are in the zone. It has a smile, too, when you make contact with someone else who is in the zone too. The person that supports you wants more of that for you and will be helping you to get it, even so far as to try to help you carry your equipment, regardless of the length of her nails are the height of her heels.
Additionally, you'll know her because she has treasured every kind thing you've ever said to her. You won't be able to find her based on her looks at all: She could be tall, short, toothpick thin or carry a little extra jiggle. She will be listening to you, without waiting for an opening to put in her next statement. She wants to know all of your truth. In fact, when you've told her the truth from the depth of your soul, she will have tears of joy in her eyes.
The second tool you have has always been with you. She's your mom. I'm not saying ask her opinion, that will come later. Your whole life you have spent putting a smile on her face. The one you want to see is the one that tilts back and basks in the joy of being in your presence. All that practice on your mom will come in very handy now.
My hope is that this didn't sound like it was from your mom, although I think I would have told this to a son. I hope it sounds like it came from a friend. I wish you well on your search my friend. My regret is that I won't be here to see it.
Friday, July 15, 2011
This was some unique artwork as we enterred the stadium. Made of license plates and bottle caps ~ excellent use of recycled materials!
At the Seattle Mariner's Stitch & Pitch they brought in Nicky Epstein, who is a well-known author of books both knitting and crochet to throw out the first pitch. Here's her website:
and here is her Goodreads profile if you'd like to learn about all the books she's written.
I learned she can throw a ball moderately well, with style and grace...
She was available for book signing and I brought my copy of the most fun knitting book (in my opinion) for her to do so. She thought my pink Sharpie very appropriate, and let me take a picture with her.
PS: If you looked at her list of books, her baseball glove having been embellished should be no surprise...
The brown knitted piece there is a sample from a book she is currently promoting, Knitting Block by Block.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Really have no thoughts about that, except that it wasn't the life changing event I thought it would be at the time, I was relieved to finally get out from under the thumb of people who really didn't care to do more than just their jobs. In striking contrast to one of my relatives who is retiring today from teaching after nearly thirty years, who is truly sad to leave.
My only thought about my current situation regarding high school is how to get Classmates.com to stop spamming me about the reunion this summer.
Anyway, hope you are have a great month. Making any plans for summer?
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise. - Noel Coward. Nah, praise is just fine with me. One of the voices in my head is already pretty critical. His buddy is OCD. Regular party goin' on in there, unfortunately it messes with my knitting... Rip, rip, rip.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
(Originally posted for my daughter, thought I'd posted it here already but I can't find it... It is a family favorite. We don't make it authentic, please don't complain that it's not, I try to make it more Northwest style. It is usually too much for just us, but we like taking a big frozen chunk of it camping, especially at the beach.)
RED BEANS & RICE
1 pound of dry red kidney beans
2 quarts of cold water
1 meaty ham bone or thick slice of raw ham, cut into cubes
1/2 pound hot sausage, thick sliced
1 bunch of scallions, including green tops
1 green pepper
2 stalks of celery
3 medium sized onions
Large pince of ground thyme
4 bay leaves
cayenne pepper or tabasco sauce
salt, pepper & white rice (not instant)
NOW: what I get: OK, the beans, the water. You can find a pound of ham cubed up at Wal*mart Supercenter for $2.50 it will save you some prep time. I have been using a roll of Jimmy Dean sausage instead of the hot. It does come hot, but last time it was too hot. Green onions, never have found scallions. If they are the same price you can try the colored peppers, they are sweeter, and make prettier batch of beans. You'll have to get a jar a peanut butter for the rest of the celery, cause two stalks is two STICKS. This last batch I used one giant onion because the bags all had moldy bulbs. Don't forget the thyme and BAY LEAVES. Salt and Tabasco sauce for pepper. I'll tell you how to make the rice too, hang in there.
Recipe says: Rinse Kidney beans twice discard any that look bad. (if you buy premium beans - none of them look bad.) Put beans in a big heavy pot at least 3 quarts (4 quarts is best). Add Water, ham & sausage. Set uncovered on a burner at medium heat. While the beans are soaking & warming, chop and add scallions, green peppers, celery and onions. Then add thyme and bay leaves.
When the mixture boils, reduce heat and cover. Stir every 20-30 minutes for 3 hours. Then, with a wooden spoon, mash about one-fourth of the beans against the side of the pot. If they don't mash easily, try again after an hour. (I don't own a wooden spoon yet, today and in the past I used a mixer. Once I tried a blender... don't recommend that!) Forty minutes after mashing the beans, taste and season with cayenne pepper or tabasco sauce. Don't use too much, this is supposed to be delicious but subtly flavored. (I just give Michael the tabasco sauce when we serve it up.) Cook for another half an hour, while preparing rice.
OK. NOW FOR YOUR MOM'S PERFECT RICE. Put the amount of water equal to the amount of cooked rice in you want in the saucepan. For example, if you want 4 cups of rice (enough for four people and seconds) four cups of water. I put a heaping tablespoon of butter and one cube of chicken boullion for each cup of water of water, plus one more cube. When the water is boilling, turn it down to simmer and stir in 1/2 cup of rice for each cup of water. Put the lid on and SET THE TIMER FOR 20 MINUTES. Do not check it or lift the lid for any reason till the timer goes off. When it does, your rice should be fluffy.
Back to Recipe: It's hard to believe, but all the vegetables cook away to nothing. The mashed beans thicken the sauce to a creamy consistency. It's even more flavorful rewarmed after a night in the refridgerator.
Mom says: Freeze some of it for later. Don't make too much rice so you have fresh rice every time you warm it up.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
If you ever wondered about our other dog, Maggie, yes she's around and spunky. She just hates it whenever we pick up the camera, so the majority of the pictures we get of her are of her behind! In fact, just at this moment, I picked up the camera to take the disc out to download this picture of Dori, and Maggie's high-tailed it out of here, upstairs, to go back to bed. One of the old 'Tarzan' movies is on the TV and Dori's trying to figure out why that box in the middle of the room keeps screaming....
Anyway, the sun is out, hope April means spring is on the way.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I knew that as humans, we are created with the capabilities to love, and we require love to be stable, well-rounded members of society. I also knew that along with that come feelings of being cherished, and cared-for along with contentment. My faith taught me that in a balanced marriage is the experience of teamwork, beyond knowing the end of each other's sentences, which means that because you are truly together, the scope of what can be done extends beyond the ability of your own household to stand firmly. It benefits your extended family and friends, then the community and the world at large.
Four years ago, I met my husband. Until that moment, I knew the damage that people could do to each other, to hurt and hinder and break another down. I knew it to such a degree that to love someone would be a mistake on my part, to trust another I didn't think I was capable of, to be loved I was undeserving of and even the security of a friendship was non-existent.
It is not a cliche to say to have a friend, you must be a friend. Friends are people you can lean on when the times are hard, trust with your secrets, feel the truth of their compliments and critiques. To be a friend, you must be dependable, trustworthy and truthful. For self preservation, these days you must reserve these things for those deserving. With the ability to be a friend comes the open space that love needs. Love must have open air-space, good soil for growth and the warmth of the sun cannot be hidden. The ability to have a good time can be done in the dark, in the dirt, with the fertilizer (manure), but will wither in the warmth of the sun if it was not genuine and natural, or capable of real peace, joy or love. The Gardening references are appropriate because they require work on the part of our inner self.
To be loved continues on: We, in our inner self, must be lovable. We know we are lovable if we can love ourselves. With that comes, self-trust or self reliance, our inner truths, independence.
I did not have that. For a long time, I thought I was strong, but I waited. I thought I was strong because I could wait. But wait too long and everything inside you eventually breaks down, sooner than later, because it wasn't strong enough to begin with. So, really, I was only strong enough as the others I depended on, who I could not trust or rely on, to take care of me. By that I mean myself, first, then anybody else.
So, when I met him four years ago, there was not much going on inside me. I was empty, devoid of faith in myself or anyone else, scarred to a degree that must have been visible to total strangers, having reached the point of giving up and proceeded beyond it, searching for happiness, joy, sunlight, a place to belong but believing with absolute conviction that searching was pointless and a waste of effort if surviving was all I could do.
I kept all that inside without sharing until he demonstrated that was where he was too. His opinions were mine, but he was still confident enough to voice them, I'd given up finding a friend who cared to hear what I was trying to say. We admired the same things, had similar likes, dislikes, at the same food and drank the same stuff (he just drank more Coca-cola than I do), listened to the same music (his stations are more set, where mine are everywhere that's not sitting still), understood each other and both of us appreciated the strengths of the other.
It became quickly evident they way we complimented each other, too. He will jump in and do something at the moment he realizes something needs done, where I will attempt to figure out how to tip-toe around a problem so that can be fixed with causing additional problems. Sometimes the answer is his way, and sometimes it's mine. He's learning to do things my way, and I'm enjoying the pleasure of doing things his way, too.
I'm learning a lot. With the chemistry in a couple, I'm learning nothing can beat they way we fit each other, heart, soul or hand in hand. Where I fail to do something for myself, he sees my failure and takes care of it, as if it were easy, no thought needed, nothing to it. If I can find a way to put a smile on his face, my reward is instant recognition for my effort, gratification of instant gratitude.
Here's something he won't want to hear, but it's my blog, so I can say it: The other day, I was reading about Jesus and how he was such a good man. He was gentle and caring, could exhibit such strength and determination, yet still be moved to cry. I realized as I was reading about him that I can, NOW, believe a man could be that way. Sure, Jesus is the son of God, and because of that he had the ability to be a good man, but I now know a mortal man who is gentle and caring and can exhibit strength and determination and still be moved to cry.
As his wife, he is a hero to me. In my heart and in my head, Superman is the name ~ in love ~ I will call when I need him. Every moment I need him and I call him.
I've learned you can have someone close to your heart, who will move heaven and earth not to hurt you or let you be hurt by others, who can take your simple truths and make them a beautiful, appreciated drop of water in the desert. It is possible to do more for others, while not always financially, because you have had something done for you. I know, now, is why there are so many love songs. Some are silly, like Paul McCartney said, because sometimes you feel like you've been inflated with helium, but sometimes they are really beautiful. There is no way to express what being loved really, totally feels like, but to keep trying is the only way to get close to the truth.
Four years ago, I never would have thought this possible. But tomorrow, I find some other little thing is a blessing. And the next day, there will be another. And the next day... And the next day...
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Of the shops I did visit I noticed a few things. Since this was a sponsored event of a specific yarn vendor, lots of the stops had repeatedly the same brands of wooly goodies, but the variety of color was just that ~ a variety. Some were quite large, some were little holes in the wall, some so tidy that I would have felt somewhat uncomfortable to sit and work at something and some had very homey little gathering areas. Visitors and shophelpers alike were smiley and giggly, high on some kind of creative-sugar-drugs-intoxicant and I saw lots of money spent at the majority of these places. . .
So, all in all, I have faith that it was a good event for the shops involved. However, one was completely different and off your beaten path. I hope to re-direct your feet.
Some very young people may not recall, but way back when, a couple of years ago, when children grew up and moved away, the rooms that used to be the place they dreamed, schemed or pouted, practiced smiling, styling and profiling until perfection for public consumption, became the new private areas for their parents where they could now do the things they wanted. Sometimes a new office, sometimes a new workout room, sometimes a new hobby but always the place a parent had for years imagined what they would get to do with that new reclaimed space in their home that they have paid the mortgage for but hadn't really ventured into since the initial move-in date.
Occasionally, that space became mother's sewing room. My mom had, while we were all still at home growing up, a corner of her room where she sewed. It had a sewing machine in a corner that folded down and tucked into a cabinet that had drawers with implements of unspeakable torture, or so your brother may have thought. My brother was often accused of taking the scissors and using them as screwdrivers, which is possible because that's what happened to a lot of the butter knives in the kitchen. Near all this wonderment may have been several baskets or boxes of yarn for her various crochet projects. A few books, lots of dress patterns, gadgets for the sewing machine, works in progress, unfinished projects, forgotten disasters. It was in this corner that I found a knitting instruction book and a pair of green plastic knitting needles and learned a lesson that has kept me company for the majority of my life ~ through anything and anywhere, to knit has been my comfort, my joy, my stress reliever and my anguish.
I'm sure my mom thought that once the space cleared up, she could gather all the boxes, baskets, jars of buttons and tubs of zippers into a new place and her bedroom become the elegant resting spot of the magazines. Mothers today don't have that luxury, I think, because extra space is not often affordable. It seems most people are learning to be content with enough living space to live and everything that can't fit into storage by IKEA is beyond affordability. It's either that or have your family members all stay in one spot for generations, all together, and forfeit privacy and creativity.
One of the stops on this last weekend's Yarn Crawl may be the new age answer to that. Wynona Studios, located in Downtown Oregon City, Oregon, is a very large shop, and completely unique to all the other shops. There is no virgin yarn to purchase. In fact, really, it's not a yarn store although it could answer that need for some. This Wonderland is where a lot of ideas could find fruition. Let's say you had a pair of pants that the hem has come undone on, but you don't have a Singer Sewing machine set up in the non-existent spare room. So, the pair of pants goes into a spot to be done with someday. Let's also add your daughters favorite dress that fit in Pre-school but not in Kindergarten. How about that sweater that grandma sent for a gift which promptly went out to play with your little Mr. Baseball, and became home-plate, acquiring a nasty hole in an inconvenient place and you're not sure now what to do with? Doesn't your husband have some old rock-n-roll t-shirts he'll never wear on the golf course? What if you took that ever-growing accumulation to a place where, for a low membership fee each month, your inventive thoughts could run amok and all of those things could be mended, fixed, re-created, or just plain recycled into something new, wonderful and completely usable once again?
Wynona Studios is, quite literally, the room you thought you would gain when your kids moved out. JJ, with her mom Linda and her high-school daughter Emma, took Great-grandma Wynona's personal stash of wonders and opened a large space with several work stations for all kinds of fun. Lots of little wonders can be found right near the door which include yarn RECYCLED from thrift store finds, local fiber that can be spun and some that has, lots of little goodies and do-dads that have to be touched, admired and taken home. There's a fireplace with comfy chairs and a large screen TV above just for fun but surrounded by a better collection of craft books than my local library has. JJ's current knitting project can probably be found near a chair there. Emma has become quite a proficient at spinning with drop spindles, but there is a couple of spinning wheels there she could use if she could be pinned to one spot. Linda supervises from the back of the shop over several sewing machines of different kinds, from the simple to the more technologically advanced. On the walls are the projects visitors have finished and become proud of, shelves of quilting supplies and odds and ends to complete any and every sewing need. There are often racks of drying wool, recently cashmere, moist completed projects are blocked and drying, a child's play area ~ after all, Mommy's playing, so is little sister and baby brother. The shop is protected by a very little patient dog, Wilson, aka Willie, a Japanese Chin mix from the Humane Society, who waits for someone to sit in his favorite chair so he can hop into their lap and examine them up close and if they pass inspection, take a nap in their lap. Lots of wonderful displays of things, little sheep figures on the mantel above the fireplace, there is also two window displays next to the front doors that change often with the seasons, JJ's personal stash of pretty sock yarn are displayed in the coffee table like a rainbow of wool from around the world.
I'm sure their Grandma Wynona would feel at home there, I know my grandmother would have been. My Grandfather, too, could have brought some of the quilts he entered into contests for cash prizes in his youth when his money was hard-won and too infrequent. I hope to take my mom there someday, I'm sure she'll tell me stories of some of her crafting adventures, where she doesn't venture much anymore due to her failing eyesight. Someday, I may take my daughter so she can see that a cherished item can be salvaged and made new, different and unique, just like she is.
You can stop by there too. Check out the class schedule. Let JJ plan a crafty party for you and your friends. Sit near me on the brocade chairs while I knit and tell me where you've been, I've missed you, but I'd love to see your smiling face, and my challenge will be to make you laugh till we get our fill.
(This was the window display at Wynona Studios last November: knitted turkey, rolls, corn on the cob, etc. Not 2007, didn't realize the date stamp had been turned on. . . )
Friday, February 4, 2011
Sometimes a new beginning is a chance for us all to learn a new thing.
Take, for instance, babies.
When I was about 14 or 15 years old, the lady I babysat for had her fourth child. At the time, I was pretty attached to her family. The lady was a very kind and patient person, her husband was likewise laid back. They had three kids, an elementary school girl, next a brother then a very shy little sister. I wish I had time to tell you more about little sister. Maybe another day.
Anyway, along comes child number Four. She had the brightest red hair from birth on, pale skin and green-green eyes. I had never met anybody until then with the colorings of 'Anne of Green Gables' before, I thought Anne Shirley's features must have been complete fiction, but little Bea was a Bea-utiful Baby. (Pun intended.) She'd be in her late twenties by now, I hope she still has her red hair.
I was in agony, because I wanted to give something for the baby and I didn't have enough money to get anything I'd want to give. My Mom gave me the fabric to make her a dress. I hadn't ever made a garment except for dolls until that time, so it was a little over my head. The fabric was a mint green dotted-swiss, and I think I did a kelly green ric-rac around parts of it, I don't remember. ALL. BY. HAND. It had a bodice and flounce for the skirt, buttoned in the back.
What I do remember about the project was all that I was beginning to learn about clothing construction. The back of the bodice didn't just have to be the same width as the front, it also had to have extra coverage for the buttons and the matching holes. Sleeve cuffs had to be big enough to get into and so did the neckline. Selvages needed finished or the whole thing would just fall apart in threads.
The really cool thing about making baby clothes is that they will wear anything you make without complaint. Plus you get to learn all kinds of techniques.
Recently I finished a little sweater for Baby Lena. I was frustrated with the pattern search because I would have preferred it to be all in one piece, but such a pattern was not to be found FREE for the weight of yarn I wanted to use, so I had to use what I had. (Because I prefer jumping in and getting going rather than doing math and figuring it out for myself.) I had some pink, which she so richly deserved having been born a girl with a pretty smile, and I got to use up all that I had left of a self striping yarn.
This means that when the project is not all in one piece that your stripes have to match. This one turned out pretty simple to match actually. There were just a couple of spots that the stripes didn't match up exactly but I was able to fudge the seam a little and it came out perfect, even at the front neckline.
The next part to be particular about is making sure the distance from the bottom of the armhole to the shoulder is not too tight that baby's dressing assistant can't assist her arms into the sweater properly. The cuffs can't be too fitted either for the same reason.
And I hope that all the little ones who received sweaters from me before I learned the stretchy cast-off methods will forgive me if the necklines were too tight to squeeze their heads through. Nowadays, I always check to see if the watermelon that came out of mommy will go through my finished necklines.
I delivered it last weekend, I hoped that it was something to be worn on outside expeditions and that's exactly the first thing Lena's mommy said it would be good for.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
It all started a couple of years ago with an article in the New York Times.URBAN TACTICS; The Right Stuff, but Usually the Wrong Stuff
By CHRISTIAN VACHON
Published: May 13, 2007
AT 10 o'clock one morning not long ago, 14 men waited in a brightly lighted corridor of Access Self Storage in Long Island City, Queens, a company that shares a drab stretch of Review Avenue with a strip club, electrical generators and warehouses. The men were there to bid on the foreclosed contents of the first storage locker up for auction -- essentially panning for gold. Inside every sealed cardboard box is the possibility of a jewelry collection, a Civil War relic or a first-edition Superman comic book. Far more frequently, though, they find themselves the owners of items like photo albums and sex toys that are worthless -- at least to them.
When the manager opened the locker, a walk-in unit the size of a small bedroom, the men crowded in the doorway to inspect the merchandise. Along one wall were neatly stacked cardboard boxes. Leaning against another was a wooden bed frame. In the center of the room, a Tickle Me Elmo doll sat face up on the floor next to a box overflowing with comic books.
Among the buyers, in jeans and an untucked button-down shirt, was Nick Mermigas, a onetime Wall Streeter. As recently as a year ago Mr. Mermigas was trading gold options for the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, but business was not good. So he joined forces with a childhood friend from Jamaica, Queens, a onetime litigation attorney who was burning out in an 80-hour-a-week job.
''We were more or less cubicle jockeys,'' Mr. Mermigas said. ''Now we just work for ourselves.''
The men attend an average of eight storage auctions a week across the city, reselling the property of strangers online. Since starting in September, they have earned $12,500, supplementing their savings from their previous jobs. (Mr. Mermigas's partner would identify himself only as Bob, explaining that he worried that the lowbrow work would damage his chances of returning to the practice of law.)
Several months ago, the storage auction industry got an unexpected blitz of attention when Paris Hilton's overdue balance of $208 led to the sale of the things she had kept in a Los Angeles storage unit: sex tapes, photographs, diaries and prescriptions for the antiviral drug Valtrex, among others, items that can now be viewed online for a monthly fee.
The incident offered a glimpse into an industry that operates on the fringes of New York but is very much a part of it, and cast a spotlight on exactly what happens to possessions when people can no longer pay their storage bills.
This is a growing issue. As New Yorkers grapple with rising real estate prices and smaller living spaces, they are increasingly putting more belongings in storage, reflecting a national trend. According to the Self Storage Association, an industry group, space in storage units nationwide doubled to 2 billion square feet from 1998 to 2005.
At Access Self Storage, with 1,600 rooms one of the largest in Queens, and at all other self-storage companies in the city, potential buyers are legally forbidden to enter a locker or touch any of its contents before bidding begins. Bidders are not allowed to choose among items; a locker's contents are sold as a unit. Until the moment of sale, the contents belong to the renter, even if the items are in foreclosure. This often forces buyers to make a wild guess, estimating a unit's value from only a doorway view.
''It's a gamble,'' said Joseph Pauletich, a tall, soft-spoken buyer who owns a thrift shop called SoHo Treasures and has attended at least 50 auctions at Access Self Storage in his 16 years of bidding on units across the city. ''It's like going to Atlantic City; it really is. You have to look, and you see the quality of stuff, how they packed it, where the boxes came from.
''If it's a dirty person, I'm not so interested. If the people have money and if it was moved professionally, that will be something that I'm more interested in.''
Conducting the proceedings on this day was Don Bader, a professional auctioneer who has run this sort of event for more than 40 years.
When his call for an opening bid on the room containing the comic books yielded no immediate response, Mr. Bader said gruffly: ''Bunch of sissies -- don't strain yourselves, guys.''
A $150 offer was made and quickly countered at $200. The bids escalated until the contents of the room were sold for $400 to Mr. Mermigas and his partner, who in turn planned to sell the comic books online.
Although the auction seemed to be off to a promising start, any excitement fizzled fast. Two rooms containing an assortment of scattered, ripped boxes went for $10 each. Another two rooms, containing a pile of sealed boxes neatly stacked to the ceiling, sold for $55 and $95. A room containing stacked boxes and a closed trunk went unsold. The buyers were growing restless, even bored.
Then the door of the final room was opened. Gleaming in the fluorescent light was a refrigerator-size soft-serve ice cream maker, flanked by a pair of shiny cappuccino machines.
Outside the doorway, buyers impatiently nudged one another aside for a chance to inspect the machines. The beams of their flashlights reflected off the shiny chrome. One happy buyer made off with the equipment for $400.
Mr. Mermigas and his partner, however, went home empty-handed. As it turned out, the owner of the storage locker full of comic books paid the money he owed at the last minute, and their purchase was revoked.''There were a lot of people,'' Mr. Mermigas said, summing up the event, ''and not a lot of rooms.''
That was published the first year I was in the Self Storage trade. At that point, I had a couple auctions and would call my supervisor with stupid questions like: "How many people have to be here to hold it?" or "What's the lowest possible bid amount acceptable?" I also got a little tougher about who I leased units to, because I realized there were people leaving their stuff on my facility that found it less expensive to do so than take it to the dump. After this article came out, more people showed up, the kind of people that got into the whole 'flipping houses' scenario, that were looking to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. The office phone started ringing fairly steadily the day before the scheduled date and when I had an auction, about 15 people would show up.
That's changed again already with the new television programs about people in the business of attending auction and 'making a killing at it'. Now my phone rings daily. I often have to educate people who call what happens in real life at an auction. What tell them is 'This isn't television'. In fact, my company recently told us to remind people of this at auctions.
My tenants have become close to me, I know their histories for the most part and I spend extra time making them aware what is happening. I suppose if I had been doing this for ten or twenty years I may not be so concerned with more than doing my jobs, but I hope that I never get that way. With the way of the world economically speaking at this time, my concern focuses on the ones without a permanent address. I currently have four homeless people leasing my units. They seem to do fairly well, they are working, somewhat limited, but they are focused only on this 'bill' and for the most part seem to do fine. I have a few people I know are without jobs. I encourage them not to be late enough to accrue late fees, because at that point, their fees are too costly and can become overwhelming. I have advised a few of them that they can pay in advance so that it would be easier to stay on top of, but nobody has yet taken me up on this plan. Because this is not a necessary bill, like the mortgage payment or the power bill, there are quite a few that brush off my efforts to help them stay on top of this, to the point where I'm being ignored entirely. Those are the ones I have to advise to move out. I've basically called them several times a week, without contact, sent letters that are returned or e-mails without replies, they have accrued late fees, given me every lame excuse (for example: One young woman told me she couldn't make her monthly payment because she had a new puppy).
So, when a unit is at the point of auction, it is because the owner of the contents didn't care anymore, meaning that usually the contents weren't worth caring for. It's not a lifetime coin collection or the comic book collection of the middle-aged guy who still lives at home. The next thing new auction attendees don't see is that the old-timers know they are new and will squeeze them out by making sure they don't get anything or out bidding them. I've seen that happen, but the guys have told me they do it, too. It tickles them to pick on the greenies.
Lately, in my area, the auctions have about 150 to 200 people showing up, so I can imagine it's pretty slim pickings. Plus there's a lot of restrictions, for instance, about the personal photos and documents left in the units, which vary from state to state. In my company, the winning bidder has only 24 hours to empty the unit, also nothing can be left behind or disposed of on the facility and it's cash only.
There is a sweet misconception, that as a manager of the facility, I'm keeping all the stuff left behind. Hey, I don't even look twice. I'm pretty sad about what I know is the history of these units (so many sleepless nights, stomach aches and grey hairs with each one). . . some child's lost toys, the stuff Grandma wanted family members to have but was not even very sentimental to the recipient, medals and award certificates, pictures with the governor or other dignitaries and famous people.
The horror stories of what's left behind that I see on the internet for this industry is all believable for what I know personally. Most of it is just too sad, but apparently a burden that couldn't be carried any longer. That's the part I try to focus on when it's over and done with, that the person I tried to work with will no longer have me to bother them, or the bill looming over their heads.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
I would rather you hope.
The lyrics struck me personally, I know now how truthful they are, one of those things I couldn't understand a few years ago. So, I'm going to post the lyrics first and then the clip from the movie. I've looked for a little while now and haven't found the video of Peter Gabriel singing it, I don't believe he wrote it, but it is expressed vocally by him with a deep sense of soul. If I find it I will update . . . . . . . .
The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing
I love it when you read to me
You can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb
I love it when you sing to me
You can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know
I love it when you give me things
You ought to give me wedding rings
I love it when you give me things
You ought to give me wedding rings
You ought to give me wedding rings
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Analysts were saying that because women were buying expensive bras for themselves more now than this time, some time ago, the economy must be improving.
I don't want to be offensive, but I have to call B*LLSH*T on this one.
First of all, a woman (OK, Let's say me) will put off buying a bra or anything personal for as long as possible if money is tight. My income, personally for the last two years has been greatly reduced and I do not see any end in sight. After two years the bras I have are sadly lacking in the support department.
In order to purchase a bra that fits properly, you must spend money. Cheap bras are not much improved over wearing old ones. I do not know women who are a typical size and can wear the bras available at most department stores. Most women I know have to go to a specialty store or, like me, have to order online. I don't know anyone that can afford to have custom made bras, but I know most women would appreciate that. So, would most men, but I'm not going there.
So, after a couple of years of a poor economy, a woman will have to buy new bras. Period. It is not a sign of improved economy; it's a HEALTH concern. It must be done, money must be spent, after time, regardless of what Wall Street is doing.
My opinion on this piece of news, therefore, is that, again, the title ANALYST begins with ANAL and is proof in and of itself.
And don't even get me started on the difficulty of finding AMERICAN MADE support wear. . .
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I admit, this has not been a priority for me, deliberately so, because when I'm ready to go to bed, I don't want to wake up my mouth before I try to sleep. However, the last few weeks I've been going to bed with a cough drop in my mouth and the menthol hasn't been affecting me. Not like the aspartame in the sugar free drops have been churning my tummy, anyway.
Dr. Oz said a couple months back the the number one bad habit that women have is not brushing their teeth at night, when overnight the bad stuff like gingivitis really has time to do the greatest damage. Plus, being diabetic, my lack of dental care weighs on me heavily.
So, that's the thing I've chosen for this year to work at, because I need to form this one little healthy habit. I usually don't ever resolve anything, but I think every time I look at the number 2011, it will remind me to stick to my goal.
Here's my question: Do you resolve anything this year? Please comment if you did. Hopefully, we can all attain to healthier habits, take better care of ourselves, so we can take better care of each other.
Wishing you joy ~